Tag Archives: perfectionism

Day 29: Powering Through (31 Days of Simple Truths)

Can I tell you how many times I’ve wanted to quit this 31 days of writing challenge? Well, actually I couldn’t tell because I’ve lost count.

Some days I had something I really wanted to say, but other days involved a lot of staring at the blank screen before any words would form. Some days I was fine with writing for me whether anyone read it or not, but other days my brain was saying, “For the love, is anyone out there? Why am I doing this just for me? Don’t we have journals for that?”

31daysOfSimpleTruthsBut this was really important for me, largely because I’ve allowed all the writing I do at work to overshadow the writing I do for me. I haven’t been investing in my own words, and my creative soul pays dearly for that neglect. It even negatively impacts my work because I end up resentful of the time I need to focus there.

More importantly though, I am trying to unravel myself from the sticky trap of perfectionism. I always feel the need to have all my ducks in a row before really tackling any project. Which means I’ve been accomplishing a whole lot of nothing when it comes to many of my personal goals and ambitions, especially the creative ones.

Next month is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, for those unfamiliar); it’s an attempt at utter insanity, I mean, an attempt to write 50,000 words in a single month. There’s no time for overanalyzing yourself or making everything perfect. It’s about getting the words out. And I have a book idea (a few actually), but I’ve allowed everything else under the sun to block me from making it happen. But I need to get it out, if for no other reason than to prove to myself that I can.

A feat like that requires consistently writing in big chunks, but it also requires consistently writing in smaller chunks—adding something every single day. I have no excuses now, because I have spent all of October stripping them away. No excuses, because now I know, tired or not, blank screen or not, burst of brilliant ideas or not, I can find the words, even if it’s only 200 of them at a time. I can write something, regardless of what else the day throws at me.

So if for no other reason, it was worth powering through October and reaching for the truth in each day. And now, I think I’ll try to write that book.

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Creativity, Perfectionism, Writing

Knowing Myself

Image by Jennifer Upton

Image by Jennifer Upton

It began last July. I could feel the change in my bones long before the visible signs appeared. I even said it out loud to someone I trusted:

I feel a shift coming. A transition. But it doesn’t make sense.

It didn’t make even a little bit of sense. The restless was intense, but I was trying to tame it because any significant change seemed unlikely. Every aspect of our life seemed rooted – the good and the bad. There were commitments, relationships, plans.

But here we are, not even one year later, and the entire landscape of our lives is completely altered. I wish I could tell you it was all pleasant and lovely, but it’s not. Because when things are deeply rooted, it can be intensely difficult and painful to get them uprooted.

And it still hasn’t made sense. Until I read these words from Brené Brown this morning:

I did believe that I could opt out of feeling vulnerable, so when it happened – when the phone rang with unimaginable news; or when I was scared; or when I loved so fiercely that rather than feeling gratitude and joy I could only prepare for loss – I controlled things. I managed situations and micromanaged the people around me. I performed until there was no energy left to feel. I made what was uncertain certain, no matter what the cost. I stayed so busy that the truth of my hurting and my fear could never catch up. I looked brave on the outside and felt scared on the inside.

Slowly I learned that this shield was too heavy to lug around, and that the only thing it really did was keep me from knowing myself and letting myself be known. The shield required that I stay small and quiet behind it so as not to draw attention to my imperfections and vulnerabilities. It was exhausting.

– from Daring Greatly (*emphasis added)

I have read these words over and over today. Someone else wrote them, but oh, do they feel like they came right off the pages of my heart. There it was. Epiphany. (My one word for the year – so far I haven’t had any of the epiphanies I thought or hoped I would have, but never mind.)

Everything that has been stripped away is something that kept me from knowing myself and, by default, kept me from letting myself be known. And it had to go because it was also a year ago that I really started praying about and taking steps towards living creatively, towards “Wholeheartedness”, as Brené Brown calls it, even though I didn’t have the words for it at the time. But it is basically impossible to live creatively and wholeheartedly if you have buried the knowledge of yourself under layers of busy and performance and smallness.

So in spite of the oh-so-painful process this has been and will likely continue to be for a little longer, I embrace it fully because I want to know myself and not be afraid to let myself be known. I want a whole heart that results in a safe place for others to know themselves and let themselves be known. I don’t want to live exhausted and emotionally numb anymore. I want to live fully.

And now back to you – what things have you come to realize get in the way of you knowing yourself and letting yourself be known?

 

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Filed under Change, Creativity, Perfectionism

Obstacle Course

As I dive into a writing workshop this summer, I find my brain slipping into student mode.  Not normal, healthy student mode.  No – I don’t even really know what that would be like.

It’s more like psychotic, driven, perfectionist student mode.  The one that earned me straight A’s for my entire academic career, with the exception of 2 B’s, years apart from each other, but both causing my heart to quiver inside me, my sense of value shaken.  The one that drove a 6 year old to decide she would be valedictorian, resulting in horrible sleeplessness and anxiety during high school finals weeks, shaking hands during tests, countless tears over difficult assignments and challenging projects.

In this area and so many others, well-meaning people in my life identified my gifts and pushed me to not settle for anything less than my best.  The problem is, to this day, I am not entirely sure what “my” best is.  I’ve just run in frantic circles trying to meet all the opinions of what my best might be, not wanting to disappoint anyone who ever invested anything in me. (But more on my processing of this issue another time.)

I find myself wanting to make sure I have every school supply.  I want to take the whole dang syllabus right here and now, map it out on a calendar of the weeks, break every bit of it into daily chunks, not miss a single bit. (Just typing this much of the post, I feel my head beginning to throb.)

And while this flies in the face of everything that has been my life’s practice, everything that seems logical, I know my objective for the next 10 weeks is not to set a whole list of goals and relentlessly chip away at them.  Not this time.

I hear the Holy Spirit giving me my assignment: Soak.  Absorb.  Listen.

The biggest obstacle I face is myself, my own drive.  But I am teaching my heart to slow down, to savor the life of every inhale and exhale.  And I am hoping and praying, by relinquishing control and perfectionism in just this one small area, I will be able to turn a new corner, step into a chapter of life that will be less about achieving and more about seeing and savoring.

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Filed under Perfectionism, Writing